May 30th, 2019/ City Hall – At Wednesday afternoon’s Stated Meeting, Council Member Paul Vallone introduced a bill that would direct the Department of Transportation to study the feasibility of adopting and installing solar powered traffic control devices on New York City streets and require the city agency to publish their findings and recommendations. If passed, the bill would take effect immediately and study findings would need to be submitted within one year of the effective date.
A number of localities in states including Florida, Massachusetts and New Jersey have already employed solar power to enhance their street crossings and intersections. The system is generally activated on demand by motion sensor or push button and provides an advanced signal in the form of flashing lights to vehicles driving down the street that a pedestrian will be crossing in the crosswalk. As seen in other municipalities, this signaling system provides another layer of safety for pedestrians and is installed seamlessly with existing infrastructure.
Council Member Vallone discussed these devices with Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg last year during a conversation about pedestrian safety spurred by a fatal traffic collision in Northeast Queens. Last June, 17-year-old Madeline Sershen was hit and tragically killed by a car while crossing at the intersection of Utopia Parkway and 16th Avenue. Sershen was walking in the crosswalk on Utopia Parkway when the driver hit her after running a red light.
Pedestrian safety data reported by the Department of Transportation on the agency’s website states that although pedestrian deaths have declined since the start of the Administration's Vision Zero initiative, they still consistently make up the majority of New York City’s traffic fatalities.
“In the critical interest of keeping our City’s pedestrians protected, we must proactively look for new and innovative ways to make our streets safer for all,” said Council Member Vallone. “Solar powered illuminated crosswalks have been successfully implemented in other parts of the country and would be an effective way to improve safety for our pedestrians. As the Administration continues implementing its Vision Zero plan, this inventive control measure could be a critical piece of preventing collisions like the one that tragically took the life of Madeline Sershen.”
“As a parent, an educator, and a heartbroken aunt, I believe street safety needs to be our City’s number one priority,” said Rita Barravecchio, aunt of Madeline Sershen. “My niece Madeline Sershen died last June in a horrible crash where the driver did not see her. This new type of street design could help make pedestrians more visible to drivers. We need to make our streets safer, and by doing so, we will save lives and prevent tragedies like that of my niece’s.”
Council Member Vallone has requested a hearing on this bill in the Transportation Committee, which is chaired by Ydanis Rodriguez.